CNN is reporting that the FBI is interested in "the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver."
"It's standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation," says the CNN story, which focuses on Ivanka Trump's role with the Vancouver hotel. She is the daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official,” CNN says, quoting "two sources familiar with the matter."
The Coal Harbour hotel, which opened amid protests in February 2017, is owned by the Holborn Group which pays the Trump Organization licensing and marketing fees. CNN says that the Trump Organization has received $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees.
“In the case of Vancouver, it's not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal,” CNN says. “The timing of the deal — as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office — could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.”
"CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application," Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel, says in the CNN article. "Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the Administration."
Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said, "the company's role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units."
On March 5, the Holborn issued a statement saying that the Holborn Group has not been contacted by the FBI or “any authorities with regards to matters raised in the media report.”
The statement says Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. represented the Trump Organization in the business dealings with Joo Kim Tiah and other representatives of Holborn and TA Global Berhad. Neither Holborn nor Tiah had “any interaction or business dealings with Jared Kushner whatsoever."
“Ivanka Trump’s involvement was specifically on interior design” said the statement from Holborn which said it, along with Berhad, funded the entire development of the hotel and tower. Holborn Group’s and Tiah’s business relationship with the Trump Organization extends only to brand licensing and hotel management, the statement said.
When Donald Trump and his children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka came to Vancouver in June 2013 to announce the launch of the project, Tiah praised the Trumps. He said that he and Donald Jr. share the same sense of duty and responsibility that comes with being the second generation to take on a family's holdings. He takes the family name and brand very seriously, Tiah said, adding that Ivanka is bringing strong leadership skills to the design of the spa.
In a YouTube video of the launch of Trump Luxe in Vancouver, Tiah and Ivanka Trump are interviewed about the art of the deal.
“Ultimately it's about aligned visions,” Ivanka Trump . “We were very much on the same page.”
Tiah says his initial pitch to the Trump Organization was quite similar to what viewers would see in The Apprentice.
"One of the senior vice-presidents pulled me aside and said: 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka. In other words: no one else is in the room, you gotta understand that,’" Tiah said in the video. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project.”
"Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project," Tiah added.
This story was updated on March 5 to include Holborn Group's response to the CNN story.